Reinventing Literary History- C regan Jocelyn Wohl Paradise Lost by John Milton 2/16/99 It is obvious to the reader that John Milton blames Eve entirely for initiating the original sin and thus losing Paradise. It is she who convinces her husband to allow them to work separately, and it is she who is coerced to eat the fruit that was expressly forbidden by God. John Milton's view is patriarchal, but involves a contradictory description of Eve as logical, for men at that time did not view women as intelligent. Milton's demonstration of Eve's ability to analyze God's commands with reason and her own judgment emphasizes his opinion that in order to succeed one needs only to have faith in God, which supersedes all intellect, for God is the most knowledgeable being. Adam has the undying faith necessary to remain in Paradise, but Eve obviously does not and is therefore responsible for her sins, and for their banishment. In deciding how Adam and Eve will carry out their daily labors, Eve wants to work apart from Adam and to "divide [their] labours" because While so near each other thus all day [Their] task [they] choose, what wonder if so near Looks intervene and smiles, or object new Casual discourse draw on, which intermits [Their] day's work brought to little, though begun Early, and th " hour of Supper comes un earn'd (ix, 220-224).
Eve's rationalization for working separately from Adam is that she thinks that they will be able to get more work done considering the fact that they will not be distracted by each other. Adam feels protective over Eve and is fearful that the "malicious Foe/ Envying[their] happiness, and of his own/ Despairing, seeks to work [them] woe and shame/ By sly assault" (ix, 253-256). Adam is taking into careful consideration what God has warned them about Satan, and wants to prevent a situation in which the serpent could attack an alone and vulnerable Eve. Adam pleads for her to "leave not the faithful side / that gave thee being" for "The Wife... / Safest and seemliest by her husband stays, / Who guards her, or with her the worst endures" (ix, 265-269). Adam is wary of Eve's innocence and vulnerability and therefore does not want her to put herself into a situation in which Satan can get to her.
Eve is not fearful because she places reason before her acceptance of God's frightful warning. She questions: How are we happy, still in fear of harm? But harm precedes not sin; only our Foe Tempting affronts us with foul esteem Of our integrity (ix, 326-329). Eve is reminding Adam of the fact that they still possess the free will to do what is right or wrong despite what dangers they might come across. Adam is finally convinced and orders Eve to "Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more; / Go in thy native innocence, rely/ On what thou hast of virtue, summon all, / For God towards thee hath done his part, do thine" (ix, 372-375). Eve is eager to go and even though she has provided good justifications for her leave, is foolishly confident that she will do the right thing, foolish because she is not as fearful of God's warning as Adam. Eve goes about her labors and is portrayed by Milton as guilty of luring the devil towards her with her beauty, making him love her and then hate her because he cannot have her or be as beautiful as her.
"Her graceful Innocence, her every Air/ Of gesture or least action over aw'd/ His malice... but the hot hell that always in him burns... soon ended his delight, / and tortures him now more, the more he sees/ Of pleasure not for him ordain'd" (ix, 459-470). He becomes more passionate and eager in his rebellion against her because of her beauty, ironically. Satan, in the form of a serpent, then goes on to convince Eve that the fruit from the tree of knowledge made him speak and think like a human and would in turn make her think like a god and know the difference between good and evil.
The "dire snake " was still able to lead "Eve our credulous Mother to the tree of inhibition, root of all our woe" (ix, 644-645) despite the fact that Eve knows Gods command. She states: Of the Fruit Of each tree in the Garden we may eat, But of the fruit of this fair tree amidst The Garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die (ix, 659-663). God's command is loud and clear in stating that the fruit from the tree of knowledge is forbidden. God is making a command that he expects to be followed by Adam and Eve. When Eve does in fact partake of the forbidden fruit, her "rash hand in evil hour/ Forth reaching to the Fruit, she pluck'd, she ate" (ix, 780-781), she is "credulous" because she is naive to the serpent's temptation. She is willing to be open minded and to take into consideration what the serpent has to say, using reason to determine her actions instead of blindly adhering to God's command, as Adam would probably have done.
Milton suggests that, since Eve does actually commit a wrong, her philosophy on the fact that " we live/ Law to ourselves, our Reason is our Law" (ix, 653-654) is not a valid reason for undermining the word of God. Eve is, after all, swayed to question God's intentions when the serpent asks her about the fruit being forbidden, saying: "Why then was this forbid? Why but to awe, /Why but to keep ye low and ignorant, / His worshippers" (ix, 703-705). Here, the serpent is committing the greatest sin of all by questioning God's integrity in his commands. On eis never to question God's word which is the supreme authority. He even goes as far as to question whether "envy [can] dwell/ In hear " nl y breasts" (ix, 729-730).
The serpent is placing god in a different light and forcing Eve to distrust God's intentions. This forces Eve to contemplate the reasons why she was forbidden the fruit. She asks: "What fear I then, rather what know to fear/ Under this ignorance of Good and Evil/Of God and Death, of Law or penalty?" (ix, 753-755). Eve cogitates that if she does not possess knowledge of Good and Evil, then she can have no understanding of what she should and shouldn't do. Eve begins to utilize the free will that she realized she had to determine her own actions through rationalization as opposed to faith. She thinks that in order to follow a command, one needs to understand why they are following it, and in order for her to understand why she must break that command.
This is a difficult situation that Eve finds herself in, but being curious, and willing to experiment with freewill and actually think for herself as an independent being, separate from God, she decides to feed of the forbidden fruit. Milton makes several points in blaming Eve for the fall of Paradise. He is making a general statement towards faith in God, saying that without undying faith, one is at fault. Eve did not demonstrate undying faith because reason limited how much she believed in God's intentions, and she therefore sins.
Another point is that when women try to go off on their own and think for themselves they fail miserably. Milton emphasizes a woman's inability to think without her husband, because when Eve goes off on her own and tries to use "logic" she sins. The Serpent's "words replete with guile/ Into her heart too easy entrance won... and in her ears the sound/ Yet rung of his persuasive words, 'd/With Reason, to her seeming, and with Truth" (ix, 733-738|). Milton is insinuating here that the serpent's malicious lies seemed like the truth to ignorant and naive Eve.
Eating the fruit explicitly forbidden by her creator, she is guilty of the fall of Paradise, despite her obvious intelligence and reasoning. The irony of Milton's argument is that Eve does have a well functioning brain, but he final judgment is wrong. Women may be intelligent but they are not wise because Eve has sinned against God, and there is no worse act that a Protestant can commit. In order to be successful in life, one must possess wisdom, and it seems that Milton does not place it within Eve's character, but in Adam's character, the man. In conclusion, even though a woman can think analytically, she cannot make on her own and is susceptible to mistakes and sins, usually brought about by foul temptation.